[Screen It]

(2012) (Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike) (PG-13)

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Drama/Action: A defense lawyer hires a former enigmatic Army MP to help her investigate a domestic sniper shooting case.
In downtown Pittsburg, a sniper guns down five seemingly random people. After some quick investigation, police detective Emerson (DAVID OYELOWO) and district attorney Alex Rodin (RICHARD JENKINS) believe they have their man -- former military sniper James Barr (JOSEPH SIKORA). When asked to admit his guilt, Barr simply writes the words "Get Jack Reacher" before later being beaten into a coma by other prisoners.

Emerson and Rodin eventually learn that Jack Reacher (TOM CRUISE) is a former Army MP with a decorated past before various issues led to his demotion and then leaving the military. For the past two years, he's been an enigmatic drifter, but upon hearing news of the shootings, he quickly arrives in Pittsburg where Barr's lawyer, Helen Rodin (ROSAMUND PIKE) -- Alex's daughter -- wants to keep her client off death row and thinks Jack can help her.

He finally agrees and starts investigating the incident, something that results in a local thug, Linsky (MICHAEL RAYMOND-JAMES), tailing him and trying to use a local young woman, Sandy (ALEXIA FAST), as bait to lure Jack into a fight. It turns out Linsky works for Charlie (JAI COURTNEY) and that man's big boss, a figure known just as The Zec (WERNER HERZOG).

As Jack's investigation goes deeper, he not only finds more revealing clues, but also becomes a suspect in the eyes of Emerson and Alex. With the help of shooting range owner and former Marine Samuel Cash (ROBERT DUVALL), Jack uses his wits and skills to get to the bottom of what really occurred, all of which puts his and Helen's lives in danger.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
To paraphrase a certain notable president from America's past: You can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot please all of the people all of the time. While that can be applicable to all sorts of issues, it certainly applies to fans of literature and the movie adaptations of their beloved works of fiction.

A few years back, readers were upset with the choice of Tom Hanks to play symbologist Robert Langdon in director Ron Howard's 2006 adaptation of Dan Brown's ultra popular "The Da Vinci Code." Of course, that didn't prevent the film from going on to earn more than three-quarters of a billion dollars at the worldwide box office, so such protests were pretty much moot.

Only time will tell if "Jack Reacher" hits such lofty financial heights, but it should be noted that its star's last film -- released nearly the same time last year -- came fairly close to that number, so anything's possible. That pic was "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" and its star was none other than Tom Cruise. But having him appear as the titular lead in this film has drawn similar complaints about miscasting.

Then again, fans of the literary character -- who's appeared in seventeen works by Lee Child, a.k.a. British author Jim Grant -- do have a valid point. While I haven't read any of those novels, I have heard that the character is noted as being nearly six and a half feet tall, weighs in at 200-plus pounds, is strong but not fast, and sports dirty blonde locks.

Cruise, on the other hand, measures in at 5'-7" tall, weighs around 170, has black hair, and has been noted as portraying some of the most intense running scenes ever put on film (where he looks like he's going to explode at any moment from the physical intensity). Accordingly, fans of the literary character may have a hard time seeing Cruise in the part. For those unfamiliar with the man of fiction, it's obviously not going to have any impact one way or the other.

Instead, it's what Cruise does with the character and how writer/director Christopher McQuarrie (who penned "The Usual Suspects" along with Cruise's "MIGP" and "Valkyrie") handles the material surrounding him that counts. Adapting Child's ninth novel in the series, "One Shot," the star and filmmaker have delivered a familiar if mostly entertaining action-drama about a former Army MP turned enigmatic drifter who arrives to investigate the aftermath of a recent sniper shooting spree in Pittsburg that's left five people dead.

Before being beaten into a coma, the suspect (Joseph Sikora) simply penned "Get Jack Reacher" as his plea, a request that's left both the prosecutors (David Oyelowo as the determined cop and Richard Jenkins as the never fail district attorney) and the suspect's defense attorney (Rosamund Pike) perplexed about who Reacher is and why he's been summoned. Her character catches on fast and wants the titular figure working on her side to keep her client off death row, while her opponents (including her father, the D.A.) aren't happy with his arrival and snooping around their seemingly cut-and-dried case.

Also unhappy are a number of villains (Werner Herzog as the cool lead with a troubled past, Jai Courtney as his intimidating right-hand man, and Michael Raymond-James as the local thug hired to watch the outsider) who don't want any boat rocking in their otherwise foolproof scheme. From that point on, the unflappable and quick with the wit protagonist systematically starts investigating and finding holes in the prosecution's case along with bread crumbs leading to the bad guys, and then gets a little (okay, a lot of) help from a former Marine (Robert Duvall) to close the proceedings.

It's nothing we haven't seen before, and some moments -- including the climatic "I could shoot you dead but I'll fight you hand-to-hand instead because I'm a tough guy and that's how I roll" battle -- are so clichéd that they're nearly laughable, if not simply tired from far too much exposure in the past. Even so, and despite far too many visual flashback references to the pivotal shootings, Cruise and his usual application of intensity make his character and thus the overall work go down fairly easily.

I have no idea if others will react the same way to that and/or his casting in the part. If anything, I'd be more concerned about placing a 50-year-old actor in the first installment of an action hero franchise with a plethora of future films to make should this one be a hit. Nothing great or original but entertaining enough as it stands, "Jack Reacher" rates as a 6 out of 10.

Reviewed December 12, 2012 / Posted December 21, 2012

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